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Kyphoplasty and Vertebroplasty

Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are very similar procedures. Both are minimally invasive, with no incisions made in your back, and are typically used treat vertebral compression fractures due to osteoporosis.

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Everything you need to know

A kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat compression fractures in the vertebrae (the bones that interlock to form your spinal column). It involves inflating a balloon to restore bone height then injecting bone cement into the affected area to strengthen it. The goal is to stablilise the fracture and to correct deformity.

A vertebroplasty is very similar, but involves injecting bone cement only.

Patients considered for those procedures often suffer from:

  • Osteoporosis: a condition where the bones become soft and demiineralised  and therefore prone to breaks and fractures. This develops slowly over many years and is more common in postmenopausal women.
  • Tumours: a spinal tumour can increase the risk of collapsed vertebrae and compression fractures.
  • Blood disorders such as multiple myeloma

Both procedures aim to relieve pain, stabilise the affected vertebrae, and improve your quality of life. They are sometimes performed as outpatient procedures, which means you may be able to go home the same day.

If a vertebra has compressed or collapsed, you will probably be in a lot of pain, and your posture may have become hunched. In this case, it’s important to see a spinal specialist as an early diagnosis can prevent problems from getting worse.

Before the procedure

Firstly, you will need to see one of our spinal consultants. If you don’t already have a confirmed diagnosis, they will take a history, conduct a physical exam, and refer you for an MRI scan of your spine to see if the fracture is acute or chronic – if it has already healed. You may need to have some blood tests as well. If a fracture(s) is diagnosed, your doctor will walk you through the potential risks and details of the procedure so you can make an informed decision.

You will need to stop eating and drinking from at least six hours before your procedure.

On the day, it’s a good idea to wear loose, comfortable clothing. You should also arrange for someone to collect you afterwards, as you won’t be able to drive.

Once you have arrived and are settled in your room, a nurse will help prepare you for your procedure by monitoring your vital signs, including blood pressure, body temperature and weight, and will also run through your medical history, medications and emergency contacts.

Your doctor will then check in on you, run you through the procedure once again and ask you to sign a consent form that confirms you are happy to go ahead with the procedure.

The team will then guide you to the procedure room.

During the procedure

The procedure can be performed under general aneasthetic or local anaesthetic with sedation. To start with, the chosen anaesthetic will be injected into the area to be treated.

If you are having a kyphoplasty, your doctor will place a needle into your spine through which a balloon-like device (a bone tamp) will be inserted. The balloon will then be inflated to help the vertebra regain its normal shape. If you are having a vertebroplasty this step will be skipped.

The procedure is usually done on both sides of the spine.

Once the vertebra has regained its shape, the balloon will be deflated and removed. Your doctor will then inject bone cement into the cavity, using real time x-ray vision to guide the cement into the right place.

If you are having a vertebroplasty, the liquid cement will be injected into the vertebra directly through the needle.

To finish, your doctor will remove the needle, with no stitches needed.

The entire procedure will usually take about 45 minutes.

After the procedure

Following the procedure, we will take you to a private room to recover and to have some food. Our nurses will monitor your vital signs, and if you are recovering well, once you have eaten you can go home. You will need someone to collect you from the hospital and take you home, as you will not be able to drive.

In some cases, your doctor will advise an overnight stay in hospital. This will be discussed and agreed with you beforehand. If you need to stay overnight, don’t forget to bring your phone and charger, a toothbrush and toothpaste, any prescription medications, a change of clothes and a book.

In the days following the procedure, you will feel some soreness where the needle entered your back. This should pass after a few days.

You should any activities that involve repetitive bending, pushing, stretching or pulling movements for several weeks after your procedure. This means you should ask someone to help you with your laundry, cleaning and gardening. You should also avoid all heavy lifting.

You will also not be able to drive for two weeks.

Moving and keeping active will help speed up your recovery, so take gentle movement breaks every 20-30 minutes and go for a few walks every day. As your recovery progresses, you can increase the amount you walk each day.

In the weeks that follow the procedure, you should notice your posture has improved and your pain levels are much lower.

After you recover from your surgery, you will need to arrange follow-up appointments with your consultant to check on your progress.

How to pay for your treatment

If you’re… paying for yourself

Did you know you don’t need private medical insurance to come to St John & St Elizabeth Hospital? As a self-pay patient, you can access safe, outstanding quality health care at times to suit you.

For scans and tests, as well as to see most consultants, you’ll still need to be referred by a medical professional like your GP, but as a self-pay patient, the process is more straightforward. You won’t need authorisation from an insurance provider, and you’ll have greater choice of consultant and appointment times.

If you’re… insured

St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is approved by all major medical insurance companies. If you have a personal private health insurance policy, or your company provide it for you, you can use it to pay for your care from your initial consultation through to treatment, surgery and aftercare such as physiotherapy. Not all private health insurance plans cover the same things. It’s very important to check exactly what you are covered for with your insurance provider.